Keep Out! Radioactive Sacrifice Area
by Debra White Plume, Oglala Lakota Author, Artist, Activist from the Beautiful Pine Ridge Homeland
Photo: Bring Back the Way
The human beings, who comprise Powertech USA, Inc., (PT) are embarking on a path of destruction from which there is no return, which we on the Plains must face for generations, while they reside far away in their homelands of Canada and France.
This new corporation has no history of accountability in adhering to environmental laws or in the cleanup of a mined-out area. According to the NRC website, there are thousands of reports by mining corporations that document problems in containing uranium-laden water to the mine site to be located in Custer and Fall River Counties, 12 miles northwest of Edgemont, SD. It is challenging to accept that a new corporation mining uranium in an area with thousands of improperly abandoned boreholes and fractured aquifers will have the capacity to contain the radioactive water it plans to pump to the surface through miles and miles of pipe. Pipe which, according to the NRC website, leaks!
Powertech’s planned Dewey-Burdock In Situ Leach mining will puncture through four aquifers and endanger a fragile geologic situation. PT knows of the thousands of uncapped boreholes in their mine permit area and the faults and fractures horizontally and vertically between aquifers through which groundwater can spread thorium, radium, arsenic and other contaminants disturbed with ISL mining. These metals can travel to contaminate clean drinking and surface water, which may eventually end up in the pipe that brings drinking water into our homes, or the garden hose that waters our family gardens. Arsenic and alpha emitters make people sick. The history of earthquakes in the Black Hills makes ISL uranium mining even more dangerous.
Does PT have the finances to pay fines for leaks and spills that other corporations have had to pay (according to the NRC website), or to cleanup? It is not clear if PT has the resources to pay for cleaning up its mess.
PT’s uranium mining applications to the NRC and the SD Dept of Environment and Natural Resources were deemed inadequate. Rather than denying the applications, both entities helped revise PT’s applications. The fact that the corporation failed to complete a satisfactory application does not create confidence and makes one wonder about these governmental entities: are they here to look out for the well-being of people and the environment, or for the mining corporations?
The opportunity to view the public records of PT’s 6,000 page application as limited to Internet availability is prejudicial, it assumes that everyone has Internet access and eliminates untold members of the general public. Let me be clear, this practice impacts the most vulnerable: the poor and the isolated.
The Dewey-Burdock area is in 1868 Ft Laramie Treaty Territory and in a place sacred to the Lakota People: the Black Hills, The Heart of Everything That Is. The 1868 Ft Laramie Treaty was ratified by Congress and was never amended. Under international law it is our land.
Our ancestors fought the United States, many people died, to protect the Black Hills and our landbase. There are hundreds of places in the proposed mining area identified as archaeological, historical, cultural, etc. There are tipi rings, stone cairns, graves. There are nests there, for eagles which need protection. For a corporation to have more rights than human beings is a violation of Human Rights. To keep us away from a sacred place is to kill our people and way of life. What kind of government makes such laws? to turn this area into a “National Sacrifice Area”?
The laws of the United States, the NRC regulations, and the individuals who sit behind those desks can honor Treaty Law, the life way of the Lakota, and respect Mother Earth by denying Powertech USA, Inc.’s application to mine uranium. After PT has mined for 20 years, used billions of gallons of water, fouled our aquifers and land, and completed processing its Yellow Cake imported from Wyoming, the individuals on PT’s Board of Directors and its shareholders will remove the pumps that keep radioactive water “contained”, cap the deep disposal wells storing billions of gallons of radioactive waste, dismantle its buildings for shipment to a nuclear waste dump, lay off the handful of local employees, close its Hot Springs Office and enjoy their financial profit back in their home offices in Canada and France. The NRC staff will file away the paperwork of the Dewey-Burdock Uranium Mine. Will the file tab read, “South Dakota: Radioactive, Keep Out”?
Printed with permission.